WEDNESDAY COMICS: Arcudi & Bermejo

Welcome back to CBR's weekly look at DC Comics' hit series, "Wednesday Comics." Presented in a broadsheet format (14 inches by 20 inches), the 12-week series features 15 strips written and illustrated by Eisner Award winners like Paul Pope, Kyle Baker and Brian Azzarello. And with DC icons Superman, Batman and Green Lantern standing tall beside lesser-known characters like Adam Strange, Metamorpho and Deadman, there is truly something for everybody.

Every Wednesday, CBR News presents a new interview with the creators bringing this unique title to life. This week, we're spending a little more time on the strip DC chose to bring its high-concept to the masses. The first installment of the Superman strip by writer John Arcudi ("B.P.R.D.") and artist Lee Bermejo ("Joker") was printed in "USA Today," with subsequent episodes published on the newspaper's website. We'll hear from both creators this week in this penultimate edition of our three-month-long feature.


CBR: You're probably best known for your work writing more fantastic/supernatural heroes like Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. What's it like writing the granddaddy of them all, Superman?

JOHN ARCUDI: It was a blast. Superman is the superhero. He makes more sense than all the others, if you ask me. He's the most powerful man on the planet, but he's an orphan. It's that great balance of authority and humility that makes him perfect for this genre.

What makes the Man of Steel a perfect lead for this type of dramatic, cliffhanger-heavy, storytelling?

Again, that mix of vulnerability and invulnerability. Maybe you don't feel he himself is at risk, unless the writer introduces Kryptonite, but he loves Lois and his family and his planet, so there's that. In the case of this story specifically, it's a little bit of a puzzle for him to work through and as each piece falls into place, you have an opportunity for a great last panel on a few pages. At least if Lee's doing the art you do.

Is it difficult to find an original take on Superman as his stories have been told for so many years?

We weren't trying to reinvent the character here. Our aim was to exploit this - currently - unusual format that we hoped would attract more than the hardcore fan base -- more casual readers, if you will. We wanted to do a story for the uninitiated, the reader who doesn't read every Superman title every month and therefore present a sort of travel guide through Clark's world. Of course, we could have just had Superman gratuitously visit Kansas, and Batman, and think about Krypton just so we could include all those elements, but that's cheating. You want to do a story where those things are integral and necessary to the plot, and we did that.

What is your favorite version of Superman? The Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve version? Maybe John Byrne's take in the eighties?

Probably Curt Swan's Superman is the best example of how I see him. That blend of "everyman" and Superman was never captured better. And he gave an earnestness to his characters, and to his stories that you rarely see anymore.

Are the featured aliens in your "Wednesday Comics" strip an original creation? What's the name of the race? And why do they have three eyes?

The aliens are just something Lee and I came up with. We wanted to capture that same earnest goofiness of those Mort Weisinger era stories - without actually telling a story quite as insane as those were. Again, Lee kicked ass in that department.

Are you a long-time fan of this type of serialized strips? Do you have a favorite?

Those old full-page strips are amazing. You can't love comics and not love what was done weekly by the great pioneers. Do I have any favorites? Sure, about a dozen or so.

What does Lee Bermejo bring to the project?

Lee was the best! As the pages came in, I was continually awed by his ability to really bring the nuances of emotion to life and still show off the action scenes in a big way. He was very serious in his approach, both in terms of technique and conception. And he somehow captures that blend I keep talking about in Superman's look. Lee gives us a Superman that's both intimidating and sweet. He gave the art that sincerity that Superman requires to work as a character. Nobody could have done this story justice the way that Lee did.

What else are you working on these days?

Mostly Dark Horse is keeping me busy with projects, and most of those are B.P.R.D.-related. For instance, there's a Lobster Johnson series and an Edward Grey series with the great, great John Severin, but I'm talking to folks here and there about a few other things, too.


CBR: You've worked with Superman before, most notably in "Lex Luthor: Man of Steel." Did you have to develop a different vision of Superman for this project?

LEE BERMEJO: I definitely had to refocus on what makes Superman the hero you know and love instead of the one you fear. I wanted the Superman in this story to seem a bit "lighter" as well, if that makes any sense. Since the story is told from his point of view, I could play around more with his expressiveness, something that wasn't an option in "Luthor" since Brian [Azzarello] and I wanted you to see him from Lex's perspective. I suppose he had to become slightly more three-dimensional to me since this story really runs the gamut of his emotional spectrum.

What makes Superman compelling subject matter for an artist?

He's an icon, pure and simple. Unlike most other comic book heroes, Superman has become such an important element of our pop culture that he can become a reflection of it. I will always love the fact that he's the "everyman" with amazing power yet those powers don't necessarily define who he is as a person. He's also the most challenging character for me to draw. A lot of artists will tell you that he's a deceptively simple character. It's hard to get the right mix of power and vulnerability, that yin and yang that make him work as both Superman and Clark Kent.

We have seen so many iconic versions of Superman in comics, film and television. Did you look at any source material in particular for inspiration or is this an original take?

Personally, the Kirk Alyn Superman from the original serials is still my favorite interpretation of the character. He just looks like the way I imagine Superman, apart from the costume. I definitely wanted my Supes to have a touch of that in him. I wanted the whole strip to have some of the goofiness you see in those old serials, down to the alien's design and the origin scene on Krypton. Other than that I just applied my own sensibilities. I see Superman's costume as being a bit slicker and more reflective to light, almost statuesque. I also like to see a slightly older looking man of steel - more Jon Hamm, less Brandon Routh.

Can you share what techniques you use an artist?

It's all still pretty traditional - pencil, ink and some in wash. For this story, I wanted to avoid using the heavier blacks so I relied more on the rendering inside the inked holding lines.

While you get to work on icons like Superman and Batman, is it fun to just let loose and draw a big, ugly three-eyed creature too?

Yeah. Once again, I really wanted it to have that goofy old serial feel, and those aliens should almost look like guys in rubber suits. Plus, no one feels bad for those kind of weird creatures when Superman beats the crap out of them.

Are you a long-time fan of this type of serialized strip? Do you have a favorite?

Most definitely. I love Frank Bellamy's work, and his stuff was probably the biggest inspiration for this particular strip, as well as the strip work of Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff.

How have you enjoyed your collaboration with John Arcudi? What does he bring to a project as a writer? And what about colorist Barbara Ciardo?

Working with John has been an absolute pleasure from Day 1. Since the story had already been written, I was pleasantly surprised that John is not only an amazingly smart writer but also really open to the collaborative process. I really feel like this story could have been interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on who was tackling the art. He had written a character piece with a very specific rhythm, and I wanted that to stay true to the emotional center of the story while still trying to add a "quirkiness" that I feel is integral to an Arcudi story. Personally, I feel that Superman is more about the small moments as opposed to the big ones, and John really gets that.

And Barbara is just fantastic. I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing colorists and she fits in right there at the top. I'd seen some of her work for small Italian company and knew I wanted to work with her. She really brought an innocence and elegance to the colors here, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with her again on my next project.

Yes, "Wednesday Comics" editor Mark Chiarello teased a while back that you're working on something that he's editing.

Mark and I have a graphic novel in the works that I wrote as well. It features a couple of the big guys. I think if I say too much more he'll kill me, and I really want to keep working with this Chi guy. I mean, I don't know about you, but he seems pretty smart to me. He could really go places.

"Wednesday Comics" #11 is on sale now from DC Comics. Be sure to check back next week when we discuss Adam Strange with Paul Pope.

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